WAITING FOR THE RIGHT TIME
Reagan Callaghan, RN, BSN, CCM, GCM
While many older residents in our community are aware they cannot continue living the same lives they enjoyed in the past, many have no plan of what they will do when things go wrong. What were every day routines become difficult due to physical and medical limitations. Unfortunately, physical and medical problems do not improve when they are ignored. Many elderly try to cope with their changing physical demands by concealing their deficits. They may find it difficult to acknowledge a need for assistance. Asking for help and the perceived loss of independence because of aging triggers a response questioning character or moral fiber. We tend to view people who ask for help or acknowledge their limitations as being weak and “broken” in some way. This cultural ageism is one factor contributing to physical and psychological injury in the elderly.
The demographics of the elderly have altered the face of the aging process. Mom and Dad no longer live down the street or across town. The children of retired parents and relatives often live in other states or distant locations. Many elderly are facing the challenges of aging alone. This, combined with a cultural taboo associated with asking for help can be a deadly mix for our senior population.
I don’t know who started the saying, “God forbid, I should ever be a burden to my children”, but that sentiment is exactly what is causing parents to become a burden to their children today. The inability or unwillingness to accept assistance creates a road block for family members trying to insure a loved one’s safety from a distance. Children are often rendered helpless by a parent’s inability to allow them to provide assistance. This adds to the guilt and frustration many “out of town” children feel as their parent’s age. Tackling mortality, and the changing roles between children and their aging parents makes this a difficult time for all involved. The best advice for the children of aging seniors is to be realistic about their changing needs, and take small steps towards safety and wellness.
These are several warning signs the children of elderly parents can use to help them see clearly when parents need help:
1. Do they live alone in the Grand Strand area?
2. Do they have complex medical needs?
3. Are they the sole caretaker for an aging individual?
4. Have they recently been widowed?
5. Has their support changed or disappeared?
6. Have they shown increased isolation or refusal to go out?
7. Have they recently experienced falls?
8. Have they lost the right or ability to drive?
9. Have they stopped doing activities they previously enjoyed?
10. Have they had a recent gain or loss of weight?
11. Have they experienced difficulty in explaining or describing things to others?
There are many reasons to ignore the above situations. Our elderly parents insist, “everything is fine,” time and geographical constraints of visiting, or the hope that things will right themselves and ‘get back to normal.’ Unfortunately, this is usually not the case. Our experience is that often a healthcare crisis or hospitalization forces children to attempt to reverse roles and take charge of situations from their unwilling parents under stressful conditions.
To change things before there is a crisis, children and their parents need a plan to ensure a safety factor and comfort level for both parties. Bringing in local professional services removes the difficulty of communicating as child and parent, and can extend independence for years.
Elder Advocates of SC, Inc., is a Geriatric Case Management Company that assists the elderly and their families in the Grand Strand area. We specialize in identifying and managing special needs of the elderly to help them age in place while remaining safe and independent.